Ontario universities and faculty associations are anxiously awaiting the government’s decision on the new funding formula for post-secondary education. WUFA has expressed particular concerns about whether the new formula will give preponderant weight to domestic enrollment figures -- an outcome that could negatively affect Windsor.
Located in a city with an aging population, Windsor faces challenges not of its own making in maintaining or increasing domestic enrolment. (The University is not alone in this: The Greater Windsor and Essex Public School Board currently has 6000 empty spaces). Unless the government acknowledges the structural challenges that Windsor (and other similarly situated universities) face, our future as a comprehensive university could be threatened.
So, WUFA was heartened to see that OCUFA is challenging the government to acknowledge that unique problems faced by universities in areas of the province (the North and Southwest) in which the cohort of university-aged people will be flat or declining for the foreseeable future. WUFA, along with sister associations in the North, has been working behind the scenes at OCUFA to have this problem acknowledged and addressed.
While the response of the government is not yet known, the fact that OCUFA made this the number one point in its most recent brief to the government proves that political argument and hard work has a positive effect.
WUFA has also been making the same case to the Administration. At a recent meeting with the President, WUFA was able to secure his agreement to raise the matter with the Deputy Minister, Sheldon Levy. We agree that the issue is not to secure some sort of special treatment for Windsor, but to ensure that the Province recognises that enrolment challenges are a consequence of global economic forces that have ravaged the local economy over the past six years. We function within a province-wide post-secondary system, and creative ways need to be found to encourage students in the GTA -- the only place in the province with a quickly growing population -- to consider studying in the excellent universities outside the GTA that are under-enrolled.
While nothing concrete has been decided by either the Province or the Administration, we consider the recent moves by OCUFA and our discussions with the President steps in the right direction. We will continue to make the case to both that we need a funding formula that works for all Ontario universities. We would all benefit from a funding framework in which different regions support each other to ensure that all Ontario students have access to an excellent university education.